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Human resource development in SMEs: a systematic review of the literature

Nolan, Ciara T; Garavan, Thomas N


Ciara T Nolan

Thomas N Garavan


Human Resource Development (HRD) in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is a significant area of scholarship. However, the cumulativeness of research on HRD in SMEs remains relatively low when compared to HRD generally. This paper reports a systematic literature review (SLR) to synthesise research in this area. A disciplined screening process resulted in a final sample of 117 papers published in 31 journals from 1995 to 2014. The synthesis of these empirical and theoretical studies revealed that: (a) the literature utilises a narrow range of theoretical and conceptual perspectives; (b) HRD is being investigated across a variety of SME contexts, themes and units of analysis; (c) researchers define HRD in multiple ways and use a diverse set of measures of HRD activity; (d) there is significant potential for future research across the SME and HRD disciplines, SME settings and beyond existing theoretical perspectives. We offer suggestions for further advancing the development of this area of research in terms of theory, content and methodology.


Nolan, C. T., & Garavan, T. N. (2016). Human resource development in SMEs: a systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Management Reviews, 18, 85-107.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 20, 2015
Publication Date Jan 13, 2016
Deposit Date Mar 24, 2015
Journal International Journal of Management reviews
Print ISSN 1460-8545
Electronic ISSN 1468-2370
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Pages 85-107
Keywords Human Resource Development; SME's; literature review;
Public URL
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